FISHING tourism in Scotland will be hit hard due to falling wild salmon stocks crisis, experts have warned.

Fisheries Management Scotland has previously claimed wild salmon levels are at "crisis point" and called for the preservation of the species to become a government priority.

The alliance of salmon fishery boards estimates catches of the fish are at their lowest levels since 1952.

Scottish Government figures have previously suggested salmon and trout angling are worth more than £70 million a year to the economy.

There are concerns that recent estimates suggest that for every 100 salmon that leave rivers for the sea, less than five return, marking a decline of nearly 70 per cent in salmon numbers in just 25 years.

HeraldScotland:

Now Andrew Grainger of the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group has warned the issue is expected to impact on the £86m fishing tourism industry.

He said angling tourists will avoid Scotland if there is no chance of catching salmon.

"I think all organisations involved with salmon fishing have expressed concern. Anglers don't want to be coming here think they have no chance of catching anything."

Last year in Scotland, a total of 37,196 wild salmon were caught and released, representing just 67% of the previous five-year average total. It is the lowest since records began in 1952.

The vast majority of these, 93 per cent were caught and then released back into the water.

Rod catches had generally increased over the period 1952 to 2010, but then it declined in each subsequent year until 2014, the third lowest on record.

READ MORE: Salmon farming controls "not fit for purpose" in Scotland, says anglers group

In 2017, the total rod catch was put at 49,444 fish, a drop of 20 per cent on the five-year average and the fourth lowest figure on record. Nine out of 10 fish were returned in a bid to help stocks.

On the River Spey, seen as one of Scotland's finest salmon watercourses, some 3,178 salmon were caught on the river in 2018, over half the annual 10-yearly average of around 8,000.

Footage of an adult wild salmon being eaten alive by sea lice in Scotland was a result, it is claimed, of intensive salmon farming activities in the area. By Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland.

Though the Scottish Government has attributed the decline to “a prolonged period of extremely low flows throughout the year” due to hot weather conditions, but some campaigners have claimed fish farms are to blame for wild salmon deaths as a result of sea lice originating from the farms.

Fisheries Management Scotland has blamed human factors, such as climate change affecting the feeding grounds in the North Atlantic and competition from escaped farmed salmon.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The decline in reported catches of wild salmon is of great concern. We are determined to safeguard the future of this important species, but recognise the problem is down to a range of complex factors.

“We have identified 12 high level groups of pressures on salmon and in this, the International Year of the Salmon, we will continue to work within Scotland and beyond with our key partners, such as Fisheries Management Scotland, District Salmon Fishery Boards and Fishery Trusts, to better understand and tackle all of these, taking into account affordability and practicality.”